Faith and Justice: Leading with Revolutionary Love

By Rev. Dr. Jacqui J. Lewis
Host and Executive Editor, Faith and Justice

No matter how blue, red or purple your state, the polarization and injustice rampant in our nation is devastating to people of faith. These are hot-mess times!

From immigration issues, to the erosion of human rights; from economic disparity to prejudice against religious minorities and people of color; from the plight of families on the border to the unrelenting despair of poor families in our cities and towns—leaders of moral courage and imagination must set our nation on a path toward healing. Even with broken hearts, this call to lead is urgent.

What keeps me hopeful, even in the midst of tears, is my congregation in Manhattan’s East Village, Middle Collegiate Church. We are a multicultural, multiethnic, intergenerational movement of Spirit and justice, with room for all. We are a beautiful community that believes God is speaking many languages, and calling all people of faith to build a more just society.

Every April since 2007, we’ve convened thought leaders and movement builders—authors, activists, preachers, poets, attorneys, and artists—to create strategies and share best practices to, as Ruby Sales says, redeem the soul of our nation.

Most recently, Revolutionary Love has been the theme of our conference. Young activists chanted “Revolutionary Love, Love, Love” as they marched for justice in Ferguson, Missouri. For me, Revolutionary Love is shorthand for all of the teachings in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. Quoting Deuteronomy 6.5, the Jewish Rabbi Jesus (who came to be known as the Christ) taught his followers to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. He also said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Mark 12.28-34). To be faithful is to Love. Period; revolutionary love means acting for justice.

Middle Church and this convening give me hope that good people can make America whole, just, generous and equitable. I sat down for intimate conversations with seven inspirational leaders—movement colleagues—who will inspire you. They prove we can move mountains and do justice through our faith.

My friend Otis Moss III and I laughed about our love of superheroes, and shared deeply on how myths and stories—whether in the Bible, in literature or on movie screens—help us know we can combat the powerful forces of discrimination and hatred. You are going to love listening to this compassionate man, as comfortable in the world of comic books as he is the Bible.

Simone Campbell is one of the most amazing people I know. She’s an attorney and poet who punctuates her lobbying with wisdom and wry humor. Speaking with her is a lesson in humility and the power of relationships to change the world. She cares about the poor, invites the wealthy into our movement, and can go toe-to-toe with Stephen Colbert!

To be with my sister Traci Blackmon and our Mama Ruby Sales in a conversation was to participate in the magic that happens when Black women get together. Whether at the kitchen table, on our front porch, or on the streets, sharing our stories is always a rich, soul healing experience. You’ll be inspired by the wisdom and warmth of these leaders.

Linda Sarsour calls me her big sister. There is no one I know who is more indefatigable, and committed to standing for every injustice towards women, Black and Brown people, and religious minorities. Listening to Linda describe her faith in God and how that undergirds her work will dispel any stereotypes about Muslims.

Brian McLaren and I work together to create curricular materials to renew progressive congregations. Whenever we speak, I marvel at his particular journey, his intention about growing, and his passion for racial justice. Though Brian, as a straight white man, could have had a path of privilege, he is instead a model for sharing power and surrendering self-interest to heal the world.

Valarie Kaur is one of the most exceptional young leaders on the planet. She’s a brilliant speaker, and a gifted filmmaker and story-teller whose commitment to justice is tireless. She believes Revolutionary Love is the call of our times. You’ll be moved by this woman warrior speaking so tenderly about her young son, and what we can birth together.

America is in a state of emergency. We can’t afford private and personal faith. Each of us is called to speak truth to power, and to build coalitions with folk who are not like us so we can move together toward healing our land. We must love each other toward a revolution of values, and use our moral imagination and courage to disrupt American racism and xenophobia. We must work tirelessly on behalf of the vulnerable, activating our superpowers to make America a loving, and safe place for all. Doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with our God: This is faith. (Micah 6.8)